when we see ourselves in a situation which must be endured & gone through, it is best to make up our minds to it, meet it with firmness, & accomodate every thing to it in the best way practicable. this lessens the evil. while fretting & fuming only serves to increase our own torment. the errors and misfortunes of others should be a school for our own instruction.
To Mary Jefferson Eppes, January 7, 1798
Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Effective leaders benefit from having this ability.
Mary Eppes was Jefferson’s younger daughter, married just three months earlier. In a letter full of advice on how to maintain marital harmony, he began with the distressing news of his sister, Mary, whose husband of nearly 40 years was in a state of “habitual intoxication.” She was very impatient with him. Not only might that impatience compel her husband to continue drinking, it made her even more miserable.
With that backdrop, Jefferson counseled his daughter to meet unpleasantness with firmness and a determination to make the best of the situation. “This lessens the evil” while worry and anger only “increase our own torment.” He advised her to learn from “the errors and misfortunes of others,” rather than be sucked into their consequences.